Plastic Pollution, Tawas Point Lighthouse

For Friday, Dec. 8, 2017


Credit: David J

1 – What do all the Great Lakes have in common? Plastic pollution.

As 2017 comes to an end, the Alliance for the Great Lakes has released details from its ongoing beach cleanup program.

This year, 89 percent of all the litter picked up from Great Lakes beaches was plastic. And plastic has been the most common type of litter found for years.

Plastic never goes away. Once it’s in the water or on the beach, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. These microplastics, as they’re called, can then absorb toxic chemicals and be mistaken for food by fish and wildlife.

The Alliance’s Adopt-a-Beach program helped remove plastic and other pollution during more than 500 cleanups in 2017, including along Saginaw Bay.

Throughout the lakes, volunteers picked up 36,128 pounds of trash in 2017.

2 – The application period is now open for next year’s Tawas Point Lighthouse Keeper Program.

In 2018, the Tawas Point Lighthouse Keeper Program will offer combined vacation and service opportunities for adults from May 16 to Oct. 16.

Those selected to be volunteer lighthouse keepers receive lodging in a restored keepers’ quarters next to the 1876 Tawas Point Lighthouse in Tawas Point State Park.

In exchange, participants provide about 35 hours of services each week in and around the lighthouse, which attracts visitors from all over the world.

Keeper duties include greeting visitors, giving tours, providing information about the lighthouse, and routine cleaning and maintenance.

Keepers stay in the second story of the keepers’ quarters attached to the lighthouse.

Accommodations include two bedrooms, which sleep up to four adults, and kitchen, bath and laundry facilities. Keepers must commit to a two-week stay at the lighthouse.

The application and additional information about the Tawas Point Lighthouse Keeper Program is available at

The application period is open through Feb. 2, 2018.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes


Beat the Micro Bead, Register for the Great Lakes Bowl, and Comment on the Clean Water Act

The Environment Report, with Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM. For Nov. 1, 2013:

1- Wash your face, but don’t pollute the lakes. 

great lakes microbeads 5 gyres study


One of the latest threats to the Great Lakes are microplastics, or those tiny beads found in household beauty products.

They may help clean your complexion, but they are apparently ending up in the lakes, bypassing steps taken to treat wastewater, because they slip through the screens. Not only are they unsightly, but they can accumulate toxic substances and be mistaken as food by fish.

So what’s a skin-caring person to do?

Enter “Beat the Micro Bead.” It’s a free app for your smartphone. It lets you scan barcodes. It tells you if the product you want to use contains microbeads, and whether the maker of the product has vowed by phase out the plastics.

The app was released this week in conjunction with a Great Lakes plastics study from the 5 Gyres group.

The study found high concentrations of microplastics in the Great Lakes, more than most ocean samples collected worldwide.

2 – Dec. 1 is the registration deadline for the Great Lakes Bowl.

This isn’t a football game. It’s a science question-and-answer competition, for high school students.

Standish-Sterling Central High School was on the list of teams in 2013. The Bowl is a regional competition that’s part of the Nation Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB).

In 2014, the Great Lakes Bowl will be held on Feb. 1 at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment in Ann Arbor. The national competition is in Seattle in May.

The Great Lakes Bowl is limited to 16 high school teams. The deadline to register, again, is Dec. 1.

3 – The Clean Water Act needs comments.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a draft science advisory report on protecting streams and wetlands.

The National Wildlife Federation has put together a tool to allow people submit comments directly to the Federal Register on the Clean Water Act rules.

The public comment period ends Nov. 6.

The campaign is aimed at strengthening protections for streams and wetlands that surround the Great Lakes.

Streams and wetlands are important because they help support healthy ecosystems and filter out pollutants.


Great Lakes Literacy Lessons, and More Microbeads Reported

Mr. Great Lakes, Jeff Kart. As heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on The Environment Report, Delta College public radio, Q-90.1 FM. The Report for Sept. 6, 2013:

1- Twenty educators have returned from a science-based Summer Teacher Institute on Lake Huron, according to Michigan State Univeristy Extension.

At the Institute, held in northern Michigan at the University of Michigan Biological Station, teachers worked with researchers studying lake sturgeon, along with coastal wetland ecologists from Central Michigan University’s Institute for Great Lakes Research, and maritime history experts from the federal Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena.

The teacher workshop was designed to advance Great Lakes literacy —- or a better understanding of the lakes and how humans are interconnected with water resources.

Educators from across the Lake Huron basin participated, including teachers from the Saginaw Bay area.

great blue heron lakes

Credit: Rona Proudfoot

The goal of the workshop was to give teachers a chance to learn about place–based education strategies and best practices that can help enhance student learning and involvement in Great Lakes stewardship.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Great Lakes Fishery Trust provided funding for the workshop and project stipends for teachers to implement related projects.

2 – All of the Great Lakes are now home to tiny plastic particles, according to the Associated Press.

Scientists previously discovered the particles in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year.

New work over the summer by Wisconsin researchers uncovered small concentrations in Lakes Michigan and Ontario.

The plastics are believed to be from scrubbing beads in household and beauty products.

The particles are tiny enough to slip through the screens at wastewater treatment plants and be discharged into the lakes, a source of drinking water for millions of people.

Lake Erie seems to hold the highest concentrations of plastics, probably because the particles float downstream from the upper lakes.

The plastic has also been found in Lake Superior sediment.

Research has found that plastic can absorb persistent toxic chemicals. They also can be confused as food and eaten by small fish.

A few companies have pledged to phase out microbeads by 2015.


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